Decorating downtown |

Decorating downtown

Bears top Longhorns in thrilling Week Zero matchup

It took awhile, but the Rifle Bears awoke from a long winter hibernation in the second half to pull away for a 48-34 win, Friday, over the Basalt Longhorns on the road in a Week Zero matchup to kick off the 2016 season in thrilling fashion.

Behind the trio of seniors Blaine Vance and Drake Montgomery, along with junior Brandon Fletchall, the Bears pounded their way to 409 yards on the ground in Rifle fashion to pick up a big win to start a season that the program hopes leads to another playoff berth.

“I don’t really know how to comment on [the success on the ground] because it’s what we believe in,” Rifle Head Coach Damon Wells said. “Basalt has incredibly talented kids and I think the sky is the limit for them. I think they’ll have a very successful season, and I thought they had a great plan, so hats off to Carl [Frerichs] and his coaches. It definitely means something to come up here and walk away a winner.”

Locked in a tight battle in the first half, the Bears and Longhorns traded quick scoring drives as the Bears held on to a 27-20 lead at halftime thanks Blaine Vance, Brandon Fletchall, Luke Ellis and Drake Montgomery finding paydirt on the ground for Rifle, while Basalt took to the air on the right arm of Miles Levy to stay in the game early on.

Starting things off on the first drive of the game, the Bears marched 55 yards in seven plays as Vance roared up the gut for the opening score from 11 yards out to put Rifle on top just under four minutes into the game.

But in a preview of what was to come the rest of the game, Levy and the Longhorns took to the air as the Basalt senior quarterback found fellow senior wide receiver Kyle Roberts along the far sideline on a 75-yard catch-and-run to put the Longhorns on the board, 7-6, after a failed point after attempt.

Rifle responded quickly as Montgomery returned the ensuing kickoff 33 yards, setting up the Bears near midfield halfway through the first quarter. From there, it took Rifle four plays to score as Vance picked up 19 and 14 yards on the ground before Montgomery raced another 24 yards to set up Fletchall’s 6-yard score, pushing the Rifle lead to 14-6.

Six plays later Basalt answered with a score of its own, again taking to the air, this time on an option pass from Roberts to senior wide receiver Will Chadbourne from 32 yards out, narrowing the Rifle lead to 14-13.

Looking to slow things down and grind out a long, punishing drive, the Bears turned to Vance up the middle, who picked up small chunks of yards at a time, methodically marching the Bears down the field before junior quarterback Luke Ellis — making the first varsity start of his career — kept the ball over the right side from 2 yards out to make it 20-13 Rifle early in the second quarter.

Ellis’ score capped off a 13-play, 76-yard drive that took over six minutes.

With a seven-point lead, the Rifle defense looked to stiffen up against the Longhorns’ prolific passing attack. They did just that, as Montgomery came bursting through off the edge to haul down Levy for a sack, forcing a turnover on downs for Basalt.

But it didn’t take long for Basalt to return the favor to Rifle as Luis Arce sacked Ellis on fourth down to force a Rifle turnover on downs, giving Basalt the ball near midfield.

That’s when things got hectic.

Levy’s first pass attempt following the Rifle turnover on downs found the hands of Fletchall — also making his first varsity start — in the flat. The junior raced the other way for what appeared to be a pick-six for the Bears, but a holding call on the return wiped out what could have been a momentum-changing outcome.

Fortunately for Rifle, the Bears retained possession thanks to the interception, setting up shop in the red zone. Two plays later Montgomery sprinted his way into the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown, making it 27-13 Rifle with just over three minutes left in the half.

Not to be outdone though, Basalt answered six plays later with a 45-yard bomb from Levy to Roberts to make it 27-20 at the half.

In a tight battle that could go either way to start the second half, the Rifle defense came out fired up and quickly forced a turnover on downs by the Longhorns, again giving the Bears the ball in Basalt territory.

Four plays later Fletchall — behind two outstanding blocks from Montgomery and junior guard Connor Gould, raced into the end zone untouched from 27 yards out for his second touchdown of the game, pushing the Bears ahead by two scores midway through the third quarter.

“I’m just happy that my teammates were there to block for me,” Fletchall said. “Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything. Drake had a really good block on the left side, so I was able to get up the sideline after that, but this was a good start for us.”

Forcing a Basalt punt on the next possession, the Bears looked to run away from the Longhorns, appearing to do just that on the ground on another methodical drive to bring the third quarter to a close with a 14-point lead.

But on the first play from scrimmage to start the fourth quarter, Montgomery took a handoff around right end, racing 43 yards for the score to make it 41-20 Rifle in what looked to be the final nail in the coffin of the Longhorns.

It wouldn’t be that easy though, especially with Levy and Roberts having something to say about it.

The duo hooked up again — this time from 12 yards out — for their third scoring strike of the game, pulling Basalt back to within 14 points, 41-27, with almost 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Hoping to get back into the game, the Longhorns forced a Rifle punt, but a terrific 35-yard punt from senior Jacob Boone pinned the Longhorns deep in their own territory. Eight plays later on a fake punt attempt, Montgomery cut in front of the pass for the interception deep in Basalt territory.

“I knew it [fake punt] was coming because I saw the two wide receivers lined up out wide,” Montgomery said. “The first time they punted they didn’t have wide receivers lined up out wide, so I just read that and reacted to the ball.”

Two plays later — following a 27-yard pass from Ellis to Fletchall ­ — Montgomery pounded in his third touchdown of the game, sealing the win.

“Our kids never quit because it was testy there for awhile,” Wells said. “It was a one-possession game at halftime and I thought our kids responded well in the second half. I hope and pray that the old adage is true that ‘your greatest improvement comes between the first and second week’ because we have a lot of things to make improvement on, but we have boys that are willing to work.”

Levy would find sophomore Trevor Reuss for a 12-yard touchdown with five seconds to go, but it wasn’t enough to complete the second half comeback for Basalt.

In the win, Montgomery rushed for 193 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries, while Fletchall rushed for 59 yards and two scores on seven carries.

Vance added 161 yards and a score on 21 carries.

For Basalt, Levy finished 16-for-27 through the air for 242 yards to go along with four touchdowns and two interceptions.

Roberts hauled in eight passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns, while running back Ian Lumsden rushed for 89 yards on 17 carries in the loss.

Rifle will host Montrose next Friday, while Basalt will have the week off before traveling to Grand Valley, Sept. 9.

Youth will be served for Demons this fall

No other school in the valley was hit as hard by graduation as the Glenwood Springs Demons in volleyball, as the Demons saw an astounding seven seniors move on from the program, leaving just four experienced varsity players returning for the 2016 season under first-year head coach Dennis Sunderland, who takes over for Sara Ryan this fall.

Last year’s seniors Kenzi Johnson, Chally Korn, Megan Uren, Blake Fergen, Megan Mazzatta and Mariah Hagen leave a big hole for a Glenwood program looked to bounce back from an 8-15 season in 2015, so standout junior Tye Wedhorn will have to take on a bigger role this season at the net as the middle hitter for the Demons under Sunderland.

Along with Wedhorn, juniors Dani DeCrow, Kassidi Johnson and Saylor Warren all return to the court this fall.

With the loss of as much talent as the Demons saw due to graduation, Glenwood will face an uphill climb on the court in 2016, but under the direction of Sunderland the Demons could will their way to success in the league and grab a spot in the playoffs.

“They’ve been in the gym and working hard,” Sunderland said. “I’m expecting them to grow a lot and learn a lot this season. They’ve already shown me they have the capacity to learn and the desire to work hard, so I’m expecting them to do some good things this year and pick things up quickly with the new system we’re going to be running. I have a lot of kids that have quite a bit of volleyball experience and quite a few players that are good athletes and can play all over the court.”

The Demons will open the season, Tuesday, August 30 at Grand Junction.


Head Coach: Dennis Sunderland, first year

Last season: 8-15, 3-11 4A Western Slope League

Key Returners: Tye Wedhorn, Jr., MH; Kassidi Johnson, Jr., S; Saylor Warren, Jr., OH/MH; Mary Fuller, So.; MH

In almost identical fashion to the girls volleyball team, the Glenwood boys soccer team also saw seven seniors depart the program due to graduation, led by All-Conference players Will Osier and Cameron Horning, along with solid senior defenders Mason Yellico, Camilo Landa and goalkeeper Ryan Nott.

Due to the loss of experience, the Demons have a tough battle in front of them heading into the 2016 season, but fortunately for the Demons under head coach Wayne Smith, six seniors and four junior with experience at the varsity level return.

Headlining the returning experience for Glenwood are senior midfielder’s Miguel Peralta and Alex Trejo, who scored a combined seven goals in 2015. Joining Peralta and Trejo is junior forward Axel Garces, who finished tied for second on the team in 2015 with six goals.

“Those are some of our key players this year,” Glenwood head coach Wayne Smith said. “Miguel [who goes by Papas], is a significant player for us this year. He’s a talented player who’s going to have a great senior year for us. Alex is a team leader and a captain this fall who is going to anchor our back line, while Axel is a really talented guy that we can use anywhere and play to his strengths.”

A jump in production will be expected from the trio this fall as the Demons look to make a trip to the playoffs after coming up just short last fall.

“We always want to improve,” Smith added. “Last year was the best season record we’ve had in eight years, but we play in a tough conference. We’d like to be a title contender this year, and that’s our expectation. If we are, we’ll advance to the state playoffs. That’s a realistic expectation for us.”

Boys Soccer:

Head Coach: Wayne Smith, third season

Last season: 9-6, 7-5 4A Western Slope League

Key Returners: Miguel Peralta, Sr., MF; Alex Trejo, Sr., D; Axel Garces, Jr., MF

Glenwood teacher nears New Yorker glory

Folks who follow the New Yorker magazine might have noticed a Glenwood Springs resident among recent finalists for a weekly cartoon caption contest.

“It looked a little odd seeing my little town there,” said Hilary Garnsey, who submitted a snarky caption for a cartoon featuring a pair of giraffes.

A teacher at Crystal River Elementary School, she’s a longtime New Yorker reader.

“My kids always turn to the back page, and we make a sort of game out of coming up with captions,” she said.

They don’t usually submit their ideas, but this one for the giraffe couple — “What happened to us? We used to be so wild.” — struck her as too good to pass up.

With more than 5,000 entries a week in the contest, she made it to the top three, so the judges must have agreed. Her parents, who make the subscription an annual Christmas gift, have been telling all their friends about it.

Voting closed Sunday, and the winner should be printed next week with a prize of glory and bragging rights. Even if she doesn’t take the top slot, Garnsey considers it an accomplishment to have made it this far.

The contest used to have a prize — a framed and signed print of the cartoon, with the winning caption — but the magazine earlier this year eliminated that. Robert Mankoff, the magazine’s cartoon editor — yes, cartoon editor — wrote that the prize “creates legal issues that make it difficult to have citizens from certain countries enter” and disallowed entries by anyone younger than 18.

A win from Colorado is rare. According to a map published online in September 2015, the state has recorded no more than two winners in the history of the contest.

Colo House majority leader: I’m in for Hillary

The presidential primary season is over, and the nation now turns to one of the most historic general elections ever — and the stakes couldn’t be higher, especially for women.

Donald Trump has a decades-long history of disrespecting women. Trump has compared women to pigs, degraded them and judged them based on their looks. And he’s even called for women who have abortions to face “some form of punishment.”

In the wake of sexual harassment allegations against Fox News’ CEO Roger Ailes, Trump belittled the women who made those allegations public as “complaining.” He even went so far as to say that if his daughter were in a similar situation, he hoped she would “find another career or another company.”

This type of victim blaming is reprehensible. Trump appears to think that harassers should get to keep their jobs and that women who are harassed should keep their mouths shut and find new jobs. But the problem is, most women don’t have the financial resources to go out and find a new job. Victims should not be the ones who have to upend their lives. Trump’s rhetoric is offensive, unacceptable and disqualifies him from the White House.

During the campaign, Trump has accused Hillary Clinton of playing the “woman card” on the campaign trail — a direct attack on her bold agenda to address the challenges facing women, families and our economy.

It’s true — Hillary has stood up for women her entire life. She has put forward proposals to put in place paid family leave, ensure access to child care, increase the minimum wage, close the pay gap and protect women’s health. For working Americans, these are pocketbook issues that impact all families. As Hillary has said on the campaign trail: “If talking about equal pay and paid leave and more opportunities for women and girls is playing the gender card, then deal me in.”

Hillary, count me in.

From the skyrocketing cost of child care to unequal paychecks, American families are facing tough challenges. We need a champion in the White House — and Hillary is that champion. Hillary has a record of delivering results that make a real difference in people’s lives. As first lady, she fought to get health care for 8 million children. As a senator, she championed the Paycheck Fairness Act and cosponsored the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help close the pay gap.

The challenges affecting women’s lives are inextricably linked with economic issues. When women do better economically, families do better and so do their communities.

How do we stop Trump and his dangerous rhetoric and build a better future for our families? By voting. In November we can send a clear message to Trump: We don’t need divisive rhetoric that tears us apart; we need a leader who can deliver results that will make real differences in the lives of every American.

At the ballot box, we’ll show Trump that his bluster and bigotry have no place in America — and stand with Hillary to break down the barriers holding women — and families — back.

Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, is the Colorado House of Representatives majority leader.

Randall Scott Withee

Randall Scott Withee, 59, passed from this life at his home in Rifle on Tuesday, Aug. 23rd. He was born in September of 1956 in Rapid City, SD, to Warren and Betty Withee. After moving to Colorado Springs at a young age, he went back to Rapid City to attend the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

In 1980 he married Jane (Krohn) Withee in Rapid City and the couple was blessed with four children. Randy worked at various engineering jobs during the first years of marriage, including projects in Wyoming, Idaho, New Mexico, and Arizona, before re-locating to Rifle in 1990. At first, Randy worked with MK Ferguson on the UMTRA project. For the past 17 years he worked as an engineer for Garfield County.

Over the years he was very involved with his children’s activities, sharing his love for sports by coaching recreational soccer, baseball, and basketball. He enjoyed playing golf and spending time with his family. A baptized member of Christ, Randy loved to serve the Lord by being involved in his church.

He is survived by his wife, Jane, and children: Brian (Jennifer) of Littleton, Justin (Nicole) of Highlands Ranch, Jenna (Brandon Lampe) of Albuquerque, and Jacob of Phoenix. He was a proud grandfather to Amelia, Braden, Braxton, and Colton. He is survived by siblings Warren of Atlanta, GA, Craig (Patti) of Bend, OR, and Janie (Kenny) of Black Hawk, CO. Randy was preceded in death by his parents and sister-in-law Patricia. He leaves behind his mother-in-law, numerous brothers- and sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, cousins, and a host of friends. He will be greatly missed!

Services will be held at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, 652 East 5th St. in Rifle at 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 27th. Memorials can be made to Emmanuel Lutheran Preschool and Kindergarten.

Integrative Pet Vet: Probiotics provide important benefits

How likely would you be to give a pill to your pet that could speed up the recovery from episodes of diarrhea, help with allergic skin problems, assist the body to deal with stressful situations, support the immune system and improve the immune response to vaccinations? This sounds like a tale that is unbelievable, but, it is true.

A growing number of studies have shown that probiotics can deliver these beneficial effects in humans and animals. Probiotics are living organisms that confer health benefits in addition to their basic nutritional value.

Probiotics contribute to improvements in intestinal and immune function because they can exert positive effects on the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is a collection of living microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, archaea and protozoa. It is estimated that there are 10 times more microorganisms in the gut than there are cells in the entire animal body. Bacteria are a significant part of the microbiome of the gut, and it is no surprise that there is an incredible variety of bacteria types.

This vast variety of microorganisms results in a complex interaction between the microorganisms in the microbiome. Some of these interactions have been determined but many remain to be identified and understood. In addition, the microorganisms can form a defensive barrier against bad bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella, help to breakdown nutrients in the diet, provide important nutrients for intestinal cells and the body, and regulate the immune system.

The balance of the microbiome is constantly being impacted by factors like stress, altered secretions and motility of the gut, antibiotic use, consumption of certain foods or diet changes, and colonization with bad bacteria. Changes in the microbiome can result in alterations in the intestinal barrier, absorption of nutrients and vitamins, and proper metabolism of bile acids and soluble fiber. In addition, an altered microbiome can result in toxic substances passed in the bile being absorbed back into the body.

Interestingly, dogs with chronic intestinal problems have been shown to have changes in the microbiome. Some of the bacterial groups that are significantly reduced are ones that produce short-chain fatty acids which play an important role in the health of the large intestine. Other bacterial groups that secrete metabolites with anti-inflammatory properties have also been shown to be reduced in individuals with inflammatory bowel disease.

With the increased understanding of the importance of the gut microbiome and the realization that many disease processes can result from an abnormal microbiome, the use of probiotic products to support the microbiome has dramatically expanded. Numerous probiotic products are available, making selection of the appropriate product difficult.

General guidelines for probiotic selection includes 1) ability of the microorganism to survive passage through the stomach, 2) ability of the microorganism to establish itself on the lining of the intestine, 3) number of strains of microorganisms in the product, 4) number of viable microorganisms in each product dose, and 5) does the product contain a prebiotic.

Ability of the microorganisms to survive passage through the stomach and establish colonies on the intestinal lining is critical. Not all microorganisms can survive the acid in the stomach. For example, microorganisms in yogurt, unless specifically included as a probiotic microorganism, are generally not considered likely to be able to establish in the intestines. Some probiotics products contain one or a handful of microorganism strains while others contain 10-14 strains.

The argument is that products with lots of strains are better. However, this has not been uniformly accepted as an important criterion. Successful therapy with products with a small number of strains has been shown. An additional consideration is the number of microorganisms in each dose of the probiotic. A common recommendation is 3-4 billion microorganisms per dose. Prebiotics are substances that feed the good bacteria and help them to establish. Some prebiotics like FOS (fructooligosaccharides) can also have suppressive effects on bad bacteria.

Another consideration focuses on the question of giving animals probiotics that are intended for humans. Some have argued that these products are not effective in animals, but, research and clinical experience show that these products can be effective in animals. Products intended for animal use have not always performed better.

As the understanding of the gut microbiome increases, the selection of microorganism strains for specific health problems will become possible. This will result in more effective therapeutic use of probiotic products for health maintenance.

Ron Carsten, DVM, PhD, CVA, CCRT was one of the first veterinarians in Colorado to use the integrative approach, has lectured widely to veterinarians, and has been a pioneer in the therapeutic use of food concentrates to manage clinical problems. In addition to his doctor of veterinary medicine, he holds a Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology and is a certified veterinary acupuncturist and certified canine rehabilitation therapist. He practices integrative veterinary medicine in Glenwood Springs.

Stacey Tia Linman (March 01, 1963 – August 23, 2016)

Freedom, laughter, compassion and love. Stacey Tia Linman lived a short, but spunky life filled with color, travels, and deep connection to her human and animal family and friends. Born and raised in Chicago amongst three unruly brothers, Stacey held her own and eventually took on the role of protector and guide.

In 1991 Stacey moved to Glenwood Springs to live close to her brothers Brooks and Whitney. Her family grew larger as she gathered a new tribe of loving sisters, and a cherished position as “Tia” within the family of Whit, Sonja and her deeply beloved nephew Sawyer. Stacey’s true calling was that of an advocate for all people and animals who struggled or hurt. She worked at Colorado West Recovery Center, The Right Door and maintained her pet sitting business in her later years.

Stacey lived life on her terms and refused to compromise her deep commitment to joy and freedom. She spent the last year fighting genetic liver disease, and rose up to fly over the ocean and join her mom, brother Brooks, Aunt Abby and other loved ones who held out their arms for her on Tuesday morning. We will miss her terribly, but will see her in the crash of the waves, the flutter of falling feathers, and will hear her full and un-tethered laugh throughout our lives. A celebration of her life will be held on Sunday, September 4th, at 1:00 in the afternoon, at “The River House.” Memorials in Stacey’s name can be sent to Rifle Animal Shelter,

Professional cuddling business opens in Rifle

One of Rifle’s newest businesses is still trying to get its arms around the local market.

Touched, a professional cuddling company based in south Rifle, opened its doors two weeks ago. Since then it has been a slow slog to market not only the business but the concept of professional cuddling, said Aimee Wilshire, owner and founder of Touched and a Rifle resident for 16 years.

The business is centered on the concept that physical, platonic touching is beneficial in a number of ways, and that nonsexual touching is deficient in many adults’ lives.

Wilshire admits she has some work to do in opening people’s minds to the idea of paying a stranger to cuddle.

“It is definitely a weird idea,” she said. “The idea of just going somewhere and paying somebody to cuddle with you, it’s very weird … and it’s almost taboo, especially if you’re looking to reduce depression and anxiety and stress and get the health benefits of it. We’re taught basically (as) young kids that we’re supposed to, you know, you’re an adult, you suck it up, you just deal with it and you move on. You don’t really seek help for just minor things.”

She’s gotten some phone calls and a couple of interested people have stopped by the office, located at 818 Taughenbaugh Blvd. Suite 104, but Wilshire is still waiting for her first official client.

While the concept is, as Wilshire said, weird, it is not unprecedented.

Professional cuddling has become increasingly common, primarily in larger metropolitan areas. The New York Times in June interviewed a woman working for Cuddlist, a nonsexual touch website.

Many of the professional cuddling websites follow a basic template that makes multiple references to the benefits of touch therapy — which they claim can help with ailments such as depression and anxiety, among others. They also directly state that sexual activity of any kind is explicitly prohibited.

In 2013, Samantha Hess, of Portland, Oregon, founded Cuddle Up To Me. At the time, she had just ended a 13-year relationship defined by isolation and rejection, and noticed that all her male friends were instantly hitting on her, she said.

The thought of feeling love and acceptance from nonsexual physical contact was incredibly appealing and Hess started to think others had to feel the same way.

About three years later, Hess is in the process of training her fifth professional cuddler with Cuddle Up To Me and she has trained many others, who have their own companies, across the world.

The topic is polarizing.

“I’ve actually dealt with a ton of backlash on this,” Hess said.

However, she views her business not as a way to make money but as her life’s mission, saying she envisions the day where touch therapy is licensed like massage therapy and covered by health insurance, which it currently is not.

With that said, Hess is skeptical and at times critical of other cuddling companies. Some might have the best of intentions, but it requires real skills, Hess said while firing off a number of different “holds” for different situations. Bottom line is it requires training, she added.

With a lack of any training resources within a reasonable distance, Wilshire is relying mostly on her own research and abbreviated correspondences with other professional cuddlers.

For Wilshire, a video titled “People Spoon With Professional Cuddlers For The First Time” on BuzzFeed served as her initial exposure to the world professional cuddling.

Her first thought was: “Is that a real thing?”

“And I did a little more research on it and found out what it was about and who actually goes to a professional cuddler and the benefits of that,” she said.

As a former employee at Mountain Valley Developmental Services, a Glenwood Springs-based nonprofit assisting people with developmental disabilities and their families, Wilshire’s second thought was: “I can do that.”

“I was thinking it’s something right up my alley,” she said. “When I worked at Mountain Valley … I kind of had a problem with the touching boundaries. You’re supposed to care about your patients but not … get too close to them, and I always thought … it wasn’t real fair. Some of them never see their families and never get hugged or touched when they’re sad.”

Services offered at Touched include: companioning, which offers little to no physical contact; single cuddling, which comes down to “platonic touch in all areas except those which would be covered by a bathing suit’; and couples cuddling.

Unlike other professional cuddlers, Wilshire set up a by-the-minute fee structure — $1 per minute. However, Touched offers several discounts, including a special rate for the first responders in Garfield County.

Another difference, and one Wilshire was adamant about, is the brick-and-mortar location. Many other cuddling services allow for appointments at a person’s home or in a hotel room if a home is not an option.

“I’ve heard quite a few nightmarish-type stories from other people. They generally make house calls or meet at hotels and I just refuse to do that. That’s not safe and I’m not going to set myself up or my potential future employees … in a potentially dangerous situation,” she said.

To the best of her knowledge, Wilshire is the first professional cuddler on the Western Slope, where she said it takes a little longer for trends to truly settle in. With that in mind, she said she fully anticipated a slow start and is ready to try and change any skepticism people may have.

“New ideas don’t always take off right away and I knew it would be somewhat an uphill battle starting out.”

Senator: U.S. problems bigger than presidential race

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — During his kickoff address Friday to the eighth annual Freedom Conference and Festival, U.S. Sen Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, told attendees he had decided before even arriving in Steamboat Springs that he would not discuss the contentious 2016 presidential race between former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and billionaire business mogul Donald J. Trump.

“I’m not here in any way to talk about the presidential election of 2016,” he told a packed lunchtime audience in the Korbel Ballroom at The Steamboat Grand. “The issues we’re facing are much bigger than who occupies the White House.”

And for the most part, Sasse remained true to his self-imposed determination, weighing in on the Clinton-Trump race only when directly asked during the Q&A session following his talk. And even then, he addressed the race in only the most cursory of terms.

“I’m not supporting either of these candidates,” said Sasse, who has recently garnered criticism for his outspoken opposition of Trump.

But this year’s presidential race — and the caustic rhetoric it has aroused in the American electorate — might easily be seen as symptomatic of the “bigger issue,” which Sasse — a first-term senator who has never before sought or held elected office — said is facing the United States as the proper, constitutional roles of the government and the governed — as well as the relationship between the two — have essentially been reversed.

He said challenges before the nation are rooted in a general lack of understanding about what the American idea really is and a general mischaracterization of why the nation is currently in the grips of an historically “disruptive” era.

“We live in a uniquely disruptive moment, and the disruption is going to get larger,” said Sasse, who holds a Ph.D. in history from Yale University and served as president of Nebraska’s Midland University from 2010 to 2015. “What we’re going through really is historically unique, and the economic change — that maybe we think about as disintermediation writ large — is affecting nearly all our institutions right now.”

The founders — in drafting the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution — were really telling the rest of the world it had been wrong about government and wrong about the core ideas from which government is derived.

Sasse offered his audience an analogy of an island in the midst of a vast ocean.

“The island is the enumerated powers of the government, and the ocean is the limitless rights of the people,” Sasse said, drawing thunderous applause. “Think about why the Constitution is the most exceptional political document ever written. What’s unique about the Constitution is that it’s an exclusively negative document … it’s simply us giving the government power.

“… The Constitution doesn’t give you any rights … these rights are outside of the document (in the Bill of Rights). Our founders did this on purpose. All of our kids should understand this. … Our rights predate government.”

Sasse said this interpretation of the proper relationship between the American government and the American people is no longer being taught or practiced.

For example, he said, a recent survey found that 41 percent of respondents 35 or younger thought the First Amendment — which encompasses several rights, including freedom of speech, religion and the press — is dangerous.

Media disruption and the phenomenon of people living and listening to only those with whom they agree is the antithesis of education, which, in its best form, challenges students to wrestle with ideas and viewpoints they’d never before considered.

“The American idea that we have to pass along to the next generation is, when we get to this new, disrupted fourth world of the digital economy, what will entrepreneurship look like?” Sasse said. “What will cultural pluralism and a robust defense of the First Amendment look like? What will it mean to be able to say that the meaning of America is still centered in institutions like the Rotary Club, where people actually live, where they know and love their neighbors and where they actually want to do good, not just wear tribal labels about some distant fight in Washington, D.C., that isn’t anywhere near up to the task of the moment we face.

“That’s the challenge before us.”